Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, an international team of astronomers has discovered a stunning rare case of a triple merger of galaxies. This system, which astronomers have dubbed 'The Bird' - although it also bears resemblance with a cosmic Tinker Bell - is composed of two massive spiral galaxies and a third irregular galaxy.
In this image, a 30-min VLT/NACO K-band exposure has been combined with archive HST/ACS B and I-band images to produce a three-colour image of the 'Bird' interacting galaxy system. The NACO image has allowed astronomers to not only see the two previously known galaxies, but to identify a third, clearly separate component, an irregular, yet fairly massive galaxy that seems to form stars at a frantic rate.
On 3 and 4 December 2007, the two ALMA antenna transporters, Otto and Lore, were being loaded onto a barge on the Neckar at Heilbronn harbour (Germany) to start their long journey to Chile.
From there, they will travel to Antwerpen (Belgium) and then put onto a ship towards the port of Mejillones, in the north of Chile, to finally reach the ALMA base, close to San Pedro de Atacama.
The ALMA antenna transporters are each 20 metre long, 10 metre wide and 6 metre high, and weigh 130 tonnes. They will be able to transport a 115-tonne antenna and set it down on a concrete pad within millimetres of a prescribed position. Image taken in December 2007.
The first three Japanese ALMA antennas of the Atacama Compact Array (ACA) at the ALMA Operation Support Facility, located close to the town of San Pedro de Atacama in the Chilean Atacama Desert, at an altitude of 2900m.
At the time of the picture, in November 2007, the antennas were undergoing final tests before being handed over to the ALMA Observatory. The 12-m antennas were built by MELCO for the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, one of the partners in the ALMA partnership.
On 17 and 18 November 2007, the Regional Minister for Research of the Belgian French-speaking Community, Marie-Dominique Simonet, visited Paranal. This was part of a week-long visit to Brazil and Chile, in which the Minister promoted the 'Competitivity Poles' as well as Research and Education in this part of the world.
The Minister was accompanied by a delegation comprising Claude Gonfroy and Jean-Luc Horward, members of her Cabinet, Jean-Pierre Swings, former member of the ESO Council, Claude Jamar from the Centre Spatial de Liėge, and Bill Collins, from the AMOS company which built the four Auxiliary Telescopes. Ten French-speaking Belgian journalists, including two TV crews, also joined the Minister for a day at Paranal.
Felix Mirabel, ESO's Representative in Chile, Olivier Hainaut, Head of Science Operations at Paranal, and Ueli Weilenmann, were the hosts of the Minister. The Minister visited the telescopes and facilities on site and showed a clear interest for these most advanced pieces of technology. Her visit coincided with her birthday and, at the dinner, she was offered a cake and flowers, as well as gifts from members of her delegation.
Twice per year, the sunset passes exactly behind Paranal for somebody located on the summit of Armazones mountain, 20 kilometres away. The dates and time when this happens were calculated using coordinates of both sites found on Google Earth and taking into account atmospheric effects.
The picture clearly shows 3 of the 4 big 8.2-m Unit Telescope (UT) domes (the 4th one is behind the others) of ESO's Very Large Telescope, the VST enclosure on their right and the high meteorological post with the DIMM tower on the extreme right. On the left of the picture, the partially opened domes of the smaller 1.8-m Auxiliary Telescopes (AT) are also visible.
The image was taken with a Takahashi FS128 refractor telescope, a Canon20Da camera and special Solar filters, by Stéphane Guisard (ESO).
Please remember that looking at the Sun through an optical device (Camera, Telescope, Binoculars etc.) is VERY dangerous, and could cause immediate blindness!